Monday, April 23, 2007

Pokemon Diamond - Got the first badge

Before yesterday, I had never played a Pokemon game in my life.

I had seen the cartoon a few times. I had read countless articles mentioning the games and several positive reviews. I had played a demo of a spinoff, Pokemon Snap, at a kiosk in some store. I had spent the good portion of a train ride between Providence and Philadelphia overhearing a kid playing on of the original games on his Game Boy. Still, for the more than 10 years that Pokemon games have been in existence, I have never touched on until yesterday.

I'm not sure why. Just about every mention of them talks about how, even though they are built for kids, the battle system in them has a significant amount of strategy. I have heard of plenty of people my age and older that have greatly enjoyed the game. I often get obsessed over collecting everything in a game or doing everything to 100% and when I remarked on this to a friend once, he expressed incredulosity that I had not yet played Pokemon. So yeah, every piece of available evidence I had told me that they were good games and that I would enjoy them. With their first release on the DS being imminent and with a message board I frequent hyping it up and getting me excited, I took the plunge and bought the new pokemon the day of release and played it for about five hours.

It's pretty good.

It doesn't blow me away. It is kind of simple, but I think that it revels in its simplicity. You just walk around, talk to people, and encounter random pokemon in the wild. The battles in the game rarely get much more complicated than rock/paper/scissors. I really think the enjoyment of this game comes in what you put into it. You can get really into customizing the best battle team ever. You can craft Pokemon into fighting machines by choosing their attacks appropriately and giving them items and then assemble a team of six of them to take on all comers. You can attempt to collect them all. You can stalk through areas, looking for elusive rarer pokemon. You can jump through all the hoops required to get the rarest ones. I think it is in these sorts of things where the game really comes into its own.

In fact the game seems to pride itself on having a ton to do. While the ostensible goal is to get your Pokemon to beat up all the other major trainers' Pokemon, you can do things like enter fashion contests, explore the underworld, and really just make what you want of it. In a lot of ways, this series is almost aspiring to be Animal Crossing.

Also, in this version, you can finally use the internet to battle with your friends and trade with anyone.

So I'm enjoying this game, but it isn't blowing me away. It is totally hitting the obsessive part of me, and I can see myself attempting to "Catch 'em all".


Rob said...

I've always been of the opinion that Pokemon is the closest thing to Grand Theft Auto that Nintendo will ever create. I don't mean in the sense that it's a violent crime simulator, but in the sense that it gives you a world to play in and gives you a lot of stuff to toy with. Pokemon is a fantastic sandbox game that rewards different styles of play. For that, I think that it's a game that hasn't gone stale.

Also: I got the rock badge last night and tooled around with the global trade system. I'm of the opinion that trading with your friends will be much better as everyone on the interweb is asking for crazy trades.

parish said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed the Animal Crossing similarity. I basically stopped pursuing the main quest in favor of doing random, useless things on the side. This was a game designed for long-term play... but unlike Animal Crossing, there's still a core quest to focus on when you get tired of puttering about aimlessly.